How to Care For String of Pearls: Ultimate Guide
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About String of Pearls | Quick Care Guide | Growing Outdoors | 💧 Water | ☀️ Sunlight | 🌡️ Temperature and Humidity | 🌱 Soil | 🌻 Fertilizer | 😎 Pruning and Maintenance | Propagate From Stem Cuttings | Grow From Seeds | How to Repot | Treat Root Rot | Treat Spider Mites | Treat Mealybugs | Treat AphidsString of Pearls For Sale | Where to Buy String of Pearls👉Shop String of Pearls
String of pearls (curio rowleyanus) is a perennial, succulent vine part of the daisy family; it can grow up to 3 feet wide in the wild and produces spherical, bead-shaped leaves.
The string of pearls is a showstopper with its bubbly pearl-like leaves growing on trailing stems, and it’s an eye-catcher that looks amazing, flowing from hanging baskets or off a desk, bookshelf, or window sill.
Blooming with trumpet-like white flowers with red stamens, often in clusters, they exude aromatic fragrance with cinnamon essences during the summer. Like most succulents, they are generally easy to care for.
In this guide, we’ll cover how to best care for your string of pearls, so it grows quickly and healthily.
Are string of pearls toxic to cats and dogs?
Yes! Unfortunately, string of pearls are toxic to cats and dogs so we recommend keeping them away from your furry friends.
What is a String of Pearls?
Native to Southwest Africa, String of pearls (curio rowleyanus) is a succulent vine with spherical leaves that can grow up to 2 feet long. They are also commonly known as string of beads (not to be confused with string of watermelons), rosario vine, string of peas, string of beans. The string of pearls also comes in a variegated variety whose beads display white and green variegation.
It was originally named after British botanist Gordon Rowley. It was originally part of the Senecio genus but was more recently moved into the Curio genus. In the wild, the string of pearls grows in a vining structure rooted in the arid, desert ground where it grows. Their spherical leaves store moisture to allow them to survive in the desert and arid-like environments.
Their pea-sized leaves have a thin band of dark green tissue on the side known as a “window”. This is an important factor to consider in knowing whether to water this plant! The odd shape of leaves is an adaptation to the dry environments this plant grows in, allowing it to store water while exposing a minimum amount of surface area to the dry desert air.
This reduces water loss but also has an impact on light absorption. The windows can close up, reducing the amount of light that goes into the plant while also preserving the moisture stored in the leaves. String of Bananas, curio radicans, also has an epidermal window with the same characteristics.
They are considered toxic to humans and pets. Their sap can cause irritation to the skin, and ingestion can cause vomiting and diarrhea.
Their growth habit is trailing, and they make for great hanging succulents for baskets or trellises and moss poles as well as ground covers.
String of Pearls Care Guide
Window Locations (Ideal)
USDA Hardiness Zones
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How to Care for String of Pearls
Like most succulents, the string of pearls is generally easy to care for and forgiving plants. Proper light and water care are critical to ensuring your string of pearls grows quickly. They thrive best in warm environments that receive at least 6-8hrs+ of bright, diffused light. They are not frost tolerant and require overwintering if being grown outside USDA zones 9-12.
They prefer airy, sandy soil that drains well and don’t require much watering (once a month on average), preferring to be bottom watered. Due to their easy water requirements, they can be susceptible to root rot from overwatering. Given their ground growth habit, they are easy to propagate from stem cuttings but can also be grown by seeds.
They are considered mildly toxic to both humans and pets. Their sap can irritate the skin and will cause vomiting and diarrhea if ingested.
Let’s dig into how you can best grow and care for your string of pearls so it grows healthy!
String of Pearls prefers USDA zones 9, 10, 11, and 12, but they can tolerate a variety of moisture levels since they are accustomed to naturally arid and desert environments. They thrive when grown outdoors in bright indirect light to partial shade since they are accustomed to naturally arid and desert environments.
They prefer sandy soils that aerate well, which prevent their roots from becoming waterlogged. If grown outdoors, they can make an excellent groundcover plant growing amidst rocks and other plants that provide shade. They are sensitive to strong winds, so plant them away from walls, fences, and other plants.
If you’re growing in a container, you can consider planting them in a terracotta pot that naturally wicks away excess moisture and plant them in a sandy soil.
As a general rule of thumb, a string of pearls succulent can handle more dry soil, so wait for half of your soil to dry between waterings. You'll find yourself watering your string of pearls roughly every ten days. During the growing season, you can keep the soil slightly moist between waterings (1-2x a week) and reduce it during the winter dormant months.
Watering Tip #1: Use Windows To See If String of Pearls is Thirsty
One of the ways you can tell that your plant is thirsty is through the “windows” or “translucent” stripe located on each bead/leaf of the plant. These epidermal windows close when the plant needs to conserve moisture meaning that it’s likely time for watering! If your plant leaves are flattening, it’s also an indicator that you will need to water your plant.
Watering Tip #2: Bottom Water your String of Pearls
One of the best ways to water this string of pearls is through bottom watering vs. top watering. To bottom water, we recommend leaving or soaking the plant in water for 45 minutes (not the entire plant, the bottom potted part).
If your string of pearls is bushy, we recommend bottom watering to avoid build-up of water and moisture on the leaves, which can lead to fungal disease and root rot.
We recommend you plant your string of pearls in a well-draining potting mix and into a pot with drainage holes at the bottom.
What does an overwatered string of pearls look like?
Symptoms of an overwatered string of pearls include mushy and bursting pearls. At times, your beads may appear shriveled (because they've just burst). You may also see your beads turn brown as they die off.
Growing in the bright, arid sun of the desert, String of Pearls needs at least 6-8 hours of bright, indirect sunlight when grown indoors. If growing outside, plant in an area that receives sun and bright shade.
Avoid overexposure to direct sunlight as that can cause crispy, scorched, and shriveled-up leaves. Indoors, you can place them near south, west, or east-facing windows. If you place it near south-facing windows, make sure to use a sheer curtain or place it a couple of feet away from the window to avoid direct sun.
Light Tip #1: How do you know your plant needs more light?
If you’re seeing your string of pearls grow sparsely or the growth is pale, they likely need more light, so move them into a brighter area.
Light Tip #2: How do you know your plant is getting too much light?
On the other hand, if the leaves are looking dark, crispy, and dry, it likely means that you are overexposing it to bright light. In this case, move a bit further away from the light source or consider adding a sheer curtain to diffuse the light.
🌡️ Temperature and Humidity
String of pearls prefers to grow in warm temperatures and aren’t frost tolerant. If you’re growing outside of USDA hardiness zones 9 through 12, you will want to bring your string of pearls indoors to protect it from cooler temperatures.
They can survive minimum temperatures of 50 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter but prefer to grow in temperatures above 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
They aren’t finicky when it comes to humidity, so general indoor humidity will likely be fine.
Should string of pearls be misted?
We don't recommend misting your string of pearls. Although it's a tropical succulent, it can store water in its leaves. Misting won't solve humidity issues, and can leave a water buildup on your string of pearls nodes which can lead to fungal disease like leaf spot.
String of pearls grows best in well-draining and aerated potting soil. Most cacti and succulent soil mixes will do; however, they may be peat heavy and retain too much moisture.
We recommend supplementing with sand, perlite, and vermiculite to encourage more draining. You can also plant your string of pearls in a terracotta pot which helps evaporate water more quickly than other pot mediums and keep the soil dry enough.
As a general rule of thumb, you can fertilize your string of pearl with a balanced, liquid fertilizer diluted to half strength once a month during growing season in spring and summer. Avoid fertilizing during the winter months when the plant is dormant.
When grown indoors, especially old soil can loose some of the nutrition that’s beneficial to the string of pearls. Fertilizers can help replenish and provide some of the similar nutrition that occurs in the wild.
If you’re seeing slow growth, weak roots, shriveling or leggy growth – these can be symptoms of malnutrition, especially if you haven’t refreshed your soil in a year or two.
If you prefer a more natural way to fertilize your plant, you can always consider adding compost tea to your mixture.
Should I use coffee grounds on my string of pearls?
Coffee grounds are also an option but you have to be cautious due to their acidic nature. Coffee grounds are rich in nitrogen (the N in NPK fertilizer ratio). We don’t recommend placing coffee grounds directly on the soil, but rather adding coffee grounds to compost or soaking coffee grounds in water for one to two weeks and mix with water like you would apply a regular liquid fertilizer.
😎 Pruning and Maintenance
String of pearls takes well to regular pruning to encourage new growth and maintain its bushy and fuller appearance. Simply trim or snip off any dead stems and pearls, as well as leggy stems that have lost many of their beads. We recommend you prune during the active growing season to encourage a faster recovery.
This can be a great time also to propagate your string of pearls.
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How to Propagate String of Pearls from Stem Cuttings
With its low growth habit, propagation of String of pearls is easy especially through stem cuttings, the most common way they are propagated.Although they can be grown from seeds, it’s hard to find authentic seeds and harder to grow them from seed.
Prepare by grabbing sterilized shears, a new container that’s 4-6 inches wide, and succulent soil mix (preferably one that is sandy). If using regular houseplant mix, make sure to add perlite and sand to encourage draining.
Start by removing roughly 4-5 inches of a stem cutting in between the bead-like leaves. You’ll want a nice, healthy green stem that’s unblemished.
Fill your new container with sandy, well-draining soil and moisten the soil.
Place your cutting coiled up on top of the soil lightly pressing it into contact with the soil.
It can take several months to root a string of pearls, so patience is another key ingredient.
Place your container in bright, indirect sunlight in a warm location. Mist your new container occasionally to keep the soil moist.
How to grow String of Pearls From Seed
Propagating from seeds can be complex and difficult. If you’d like to produce your own seeds, you have to wait for String of Pearls to bloom and pollinate the flower heads! If you’re able to obtain authentic string of pearl seeds online (read here about fake seed scams), you can follow these instructions to get them to germinate:
Prep a container or a seed tray with seed starter mix.
Place your seeds roughly ½-1inch into the soil and moisten your mix.
Wrap up in a plastic bag or a greenhouse plastic cover to encourage and keep humidity in the container.
Place in a warm area or on a seed heating mat.
String of pearls can take up to 2-3 months to germinate, so patience here is key.
Planting in spring/summer time will increase the rate of germination.
How to Repot String of Pearls
String of pearls prefers to slightly root bound so it doesn’t need frequent repotting. If you are starting to see roots poking out of your pot’s drainage hole, it might be time to repot. Follow these steps:
Prepare your new container and sandy, well-draining potting mix. Your new container should be 1-2 inches larger than the last.
Gently remove your string of pearls from its old container and loosen up the roots.
Inspect the roots closely looking for any signs of dead, brown, or mushy root stems. This can be a sign of root rot. Use sterilized shears to remove and snip these sick roots.
Fill your new container with cactus/succulent soil mix and place your new plant into the new container. You will want to make sure that the plant is level with the top of the pot so the pearls don’t have to “climb up” to grow out of the pot.
Backfill the container with soil and water your plant afterwards. You can bottom water it.
Place in a well-light, bright light area and maintain a proper care routine!
Common String of Pearls Pests and Disease
String of pearls is generally low-maintenance but can encounter common issues due to improper watering. Since they are succulents, it can be easy to overwater them causing fungal diseases and root rot. The most common pests this plant encounters are mealybugs and aphids. Below, we cover a few common issues and pests that the String of Pearls succulent can encounter.
If this is your first time experiencing root rot, read our full guide on root rot.
Root rot is a common issue with most houseplants including String of Pearls. It’s usually caused by moist or waterlogged soil for prolonged periods of time. Symptoms can include rapidly yellowing leaves, stunted growth, and a rotten brown base. If you’re seeing these symptoms, here’s how to treat root rot.
Remove the plant from the pot and gently remove the soil so you can see the root system.
If the roots are brown and mushy, you must take action immediately. Clean off the roots with sterile water.
Take sterilized scissors and trim any mushy roots.
You can use a diluted hydrogen peroxide solution to disinfect the roots.
Once cleaned up, repot your plant in fresh houseplant soil mix.
The most common symptom of mealybugs is a white residue on a plant’s leaves that resembles cotton. This residue is either egg sacs or mealybugs themselves. Other symptoms include sticky residue on leaves called honeydew which is secreted by mealybugs and can attract ants! Mealybugs, like other pests, love to suck the nutrition out of your plant. They are able to multiply quickly and create a severe infestation that can overwhelm the plant. If you’re seeing early signs of mealybugs, quarantine your plant so these pests don’t spread over to other houseplants.
You’ll want to use a solution of one part alcohol to three parts water with some dish soap (no bleach) to wash down the entire plant. Let the plant sit a few days and repeat the process until the infestation is gone.
You can also use neem oil or insecticidal soap on the plant.
You can also use neem oil or insecticidal soap on the plant.
Aphids are small, soft-bodied insects and tend to be very common pests for most succulents and houseplants alike. They are incredibly annoying pests because they rapidly proliferate and can completely swamp some succulent plants.
Aphids can cause damage to a String of Pearls by sucking out the sap from the leaves which can weaken and deform the plant and its leaves. Aphids tend to excrete a sticky sap or “honeydew’ that can stick to leaves and discolor them. Unfortunately, this damage ends up being permanent. This honeydew oftentimes attracts ants to the plant.
Symptoms of aphids can include sticky residue, discolored or yellowing leaves, ants, etc.
Severe infestations will be obvious since at that point aphids would have greatly proliferated.
On the first sign of infestation, quarantine your plant immediately so the infestation doesn’t spread. The quickest way to kill aphids is to use a pyrethrum-based pesticide - either organic or synthetic purchased at your local garden center. You can also use insecticidal soap or neem oil to treat your plant. You will want to wipe down or spray down your entire plant. You may have to repeat every couple of days until the infestation subsides.
Fungus gnats are tiny fruit-fly sized insects that infest moist soil, potting mix and other mediums. They are gray to black-gray in appearance and their long legs and antennae can give them a mosquito like appearance. Because Calatheas love humid environments and moist soil, they can be particularly susceptible to fungus gnat infestations. Although harmless to humans, fungus gnats love to feed on the plants’ thin roots.
Symptoms of a fungus gnat infestation include stunted growth, yellow, or dropping leaves.
The best way to rid of fungus gnats is to use sticky card traps, cider-vinegar traps, or flypaper. These are similar methods to contain fruit flies.
How to spot fungus gnat infestation on my String of Pearls?
You’ll find them primarily on the surface of your potted soil.In an early infestation, fungus gnats are unlikely to do much damage. But because fungus gnats reproduce rapidly, laying up to hundreds of eggs on the soil surface, what was once a small infestation can turn into a severe infestation fairly quickly.
Spider mites are ectoparasitic arthropods that feed on plants. They prefer hot weather along with dry conditions, and they feed on a wide range of plants. Spider mites can be red, yellow or orange, depending on species. They are tiny, but they can be seen with the naked eye.Spider mites attack plants through their leaves, sucking the nutrients out of them. They leave stalks behind as they feed. While feeding, spider mites create webbing, and drain the life from plants causing leaves on infested plants to turn yellow and brown. They can cover and kill an entire plant within a week or two if left uncontrolled in your garden.
If this is your first time managing spider mites, read our in-depth guide on how to get rid of spider mites on indoor plants.
To treat spider mites, quarantine your plant to prevent spread. You can wash your plant with water to clear out some of the infestation initially and then use insecticidal soap or neem oil to spray your plant and wipe off spider mites. Repeat this process daily until the infestation is gone.
How to spot a spider mite infestation on my String of Pearls?
Spider mite damage is different from that of cutting insects. There won’t be a hole in a leaf, but rather large discolored areas made up of tiny dots or stippling. You may notice that your plant leaves are covered in a web-like substance as previously stated or you may notice small specks on the leaves, or if the infestation has gone further you might see leaves or whole portions of your plant start to curl and wither.
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FAQs on String of Pearls
How often do you water string of pearls?
String of pearls doesn’t require much watering. During growing season, you can water roughly every two to three weeks. During the winter season, water once a month. Bottom watering is a great option for this trailing succulent.
How fast does string of pearls grow?
They are one of the faster growing succulent plants growing anywhere between 5 to 15 inches a year depending on light and water conditions.
How to make string of pearls fuller?
Regular pruning and maintenance is important to maintain a fuller string of pearls appearance. If you’re seeing leggy growth, make sure your string of pearls is receiving at least 6 hours of bright, indirect sunlight.
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